Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Women Who Bike: Mari Hunter

Mari Hunter: warm, dry, and biking in Minneapolis. Photo: Mari Hunter

Mari Hunter: not how she commutes. Photo: Mari Hunter

Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bicycles. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share with you.

What's your style of biking?
Cautiously assertive.

How often do you bike and where?
I walk to work but I bike almost every day to the gym and/or shopping and have done SF2G (San Francisco to Google) a few times. I bike on the weekends for various activities -- farmers' market, movies, dining, museums, concerts -- or for exercise like riding in the Marin headlands.

How can San Francisco encourage more women of all ages to bike?
I am fortunate to have a father who is a cyclist, so riding was always a family activity. I am very comfortable on a bike, and over the years it has become my primary mode of transportation. The only thing that gives me pause when I move to a new place is uncertainty of good routes. It's hard to get out there initially, to put yourself out there and ask for help, especially if you are new to biking and are unsure of what to ask. My experience is that cyclists, particularly those who are part of a club, team, or coalition, want the number of cyclists to grow and are happy to help. Plus everyone likes to show off their skills and knowledge.

Sometimes it's easier to ask for help or encouragement from someone who is relatable -- someone the same age or sex or someone who is also a beginner but with enough experience to give advice. The SF Bike Coalition has a program called Bike Buddy. I think that is a great system if you are able to request someone who you will feel comfortable with to take your first ride or to talk about biking.

Another thought would be rides for either specific groups of people, young girls to old girls, beginner to experience or even just a big ride for all levels with one requirement: you must be a girl. Then really promote the ride as something fun with no rider left behind and choose a relatively flat route so newbies can gain confidence and feel comfortable with biking.

Have any of your best dates or friendships started with biking?
My boyfriend and I were just talking about things we have in common, and biking was at the top of our list. We ride home from the gym together and to most activities in the city. It is also just a good conversation starter, particularly in cities with a large biking presence. That's how I met a lot of people in college and in grad school, and it led to both bike-friendships and friendship-friendships.

I surprise people when I bike ...
in a skirt. Be careful that it doesn't get caught in the wheel, but a skirt saves you from having to bring a change of clothes.

For women who want to try biking:
The thought of trying it is much scarier than the act itself. Take the plunge, it will be one of the best things you can do -- good for your health (mentally, emotionally, and physically), good for the environment, and good for your productivity (traveling and workout). At the very least, try it just to feel the satisfaction of riding past a line of cars idling in traffic.


Mari recently moved to San Francisco from Minneapolis after a brief stay in Portland. She currently coordinates the I BIKE SF program that encourages people to bike to neighborhood businesses that offer a special cyclist discount. The I BIKE SF promotions and discounts are effective along the Lower Divisadero Corridor and in NOPA the month of June. For $1 off drinks at Madrone Art Bar and Minibar, 10% off purchases at The Little Chihuahua Restaurant, the Oasis Cafe, and Verde SF Florist; free small maza with purchase of two entrees at Ziryab Mediterranean Grill, and so much more, take advantage of I BIKE SF.


Check here for previous posts in this series and stop by Bikes And The City every Monday and Wednesday for more WOMEN WHO BIKE.

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